While I always love visiting a new city, there are some destinations around the world that are so interesting and so intriguing that I find myself either returning or wanting to return to again and again. This is a rarity when we travel. Usually most places we visit are nice, but rarely do we want to go back and explore them a second, third or even fourth time. So when we do find these cities with which we click, it’s a special moment. It’s special because it means that we’ve made an emotional connection with them, that they have in some way changed us and made us better and of course it means that we’ve also had a lot of fun during the experience. While entirely subjective, as it has to be, I want to share some of my favorite cities around the world, cities I could return to again and again and never get bored. I’d also like to hear what makes a destination resonate with you and which cities or even entire countries you love revisiting.
My first true travel love, there’s never any doubt if I’ll enjoy being back in the magnificent City of Lights. It’s one of those very few cities in the world where I will never get tired of being and I could easily see myself living there. I don’t know what it is, whether it’s my own nostalgia of my youth or something inexplicable about Paris itself, but it keeps calling me back, again and again to see more of it and to get to know it just a little bit better. That doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy the touristy activities there, I definitely do and walking through the Champ de Mars and eating a crepe is always one of the first things I do when I find myself in my favorite city in the world.
My first visit to New Orleans was way back in 1999. I was young, stupid and inexperienced and the city had its way with me. It was a hazy time and until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t been back since. It was curiosity more than anything else that brought me back to the Crescent City and wow, am I glad I did. The city has changed so much since Katrina, but not in all ways. The same spirit that has always defined New Orleans is still there and it’s that spirit that has allowed the people who call it home to rebuild the city into something even better than before. Sure, you can walk down Bourbon Street and find a party at all hours of the day, but what’s even better is to explore some of the neighborhoods like the Faubourg Marigny or the Garden District and be sure to try some of the new and exciting restaurants that have opened recently. There are three times as many restaurants now than before Katrina, creating a foodie revolution in a city that was already well known for its love of anything that can be stabbed with a fork.
One of my favorite cities in the world just after a few hours of being there – some places you just fall in love with right away and for me that was Melbourne. Still, I felt like I owed it to myself to go back and confirm whether or not this love was for real, or just a one-night stand. On one of my trips to Australia I rearranged the schedule and frankly went out of my way just to have a couple of nights in beautiful Melbourne and you know what? It was totally worth it. I don’t know if it’s the convenient downtown core or just the surprising beauty of the city, but it all clicks for me and it’s not only a place I could visit again and again, but I know I could also happily live there. I’m not alone either; Melbourne frequently makes the top list of most livable cities in the world owing to this unique combination of beautiful neighborhoods, diverse activities and just overall charm.
New York City
I’m sure nearly everyone who has visited this, one of the great cities of the world feels the same way I do; so it’s not unique, but I did have to include New York. The City is only a few hours away by train from where I live, making it easy and convenient to reach and yet I so rarely do. I think it’s because New York in my mind exists in a different space than the normal world. The cacophony, the rush, the sheer madness of the city is a lot for me to take. A small town guy by nature, I like where I live in Washington, DC because it’s a large city that never feels like one. New York is a metropolis that feels like Gotham incarnate and while I could never live there, visiting is always a joy. Although I can’t imagine anyone ever running out of things to do, one of my favorite activities is to just walk around town, soaking up the frenetic spirit of the city, stopping off for a quick slice of pizza along the way, and getting to know different neighborhoods of the city a little better. There’s nothing better in my opinion and it’s why the Big Apple will always be on this list.
I loved most of my adventures in Croatia, but Zadar was one city that simply blew me away. It’s not only one of my favorite cities in Croatia, but easily the world. And yet it’s really hard for me to say why, exactly. Sure it’s beautiful and the mix of architecture from Roman times through today makes walking around a fascinating adventure, but it’s more than that. While in Zadar I felt connected to the town in a way that’s hard to replicate. I loved everything from watching one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world to hanging out with new friends at a local cafe. Everything worked for me, everything just seemed right. I’m not alone either, Zadar is quickly rising on ‘must-visit’ lists and it won’t be long until the masses discover this amazing town, so be sure to include a visit in your travel plans sooner rather than later.
I have no reason to have an emotional connection with Scotland. My family doesn’t have strong Scottish ancestry and yet, even as a kid, I’ve long been fascinated by the country. On my wall growing up weren’t Madonna or Michael Jackson posters, but a giant red and yellow flag of the Scottish royal standard. That’s weird, but it just proves for just how long I’ve been attached to this small and lovingly quirky country. That’s also why my first solo backpacking trip after I graduated from college was to England and Scotland, with a heavy emphasis on Scotland. While I enjoyed meandering through this beautiful country, it was Edinburgh that I loved the most. It’s a place of incredible beauty, meteorological phenomena like a cold summer’s day and where in the evenings you can find a corner pub packed with local musicians jamming with Celtic instruments and plenty of spirit. I wish I could say that since then I’ve been back many times, but it’s only been once in 20 years. That doesn’t mean I love it any less, instead I think it demonstrates just how strong my love for the city burns that it remains unquenched no matter how much time passes.
Calling the tip of Africa home, the Mother City is one of the most popular cities in the world for a reason, it’s amazing. Routinely named to the Best in the World lists, Cape Town is unlike any other city you’ve visited before. In a quirky mix of European and African sensibilities, it’s easy to forget that you’re in southern Africa as you stroll around this colonial city. Days could be spent exploring the historical and cultural treasures of The Mother City, as well as admiring the natural beauty that is all encompassing. From the omnipresent Table Mountain to Chapman’s Peak Drive, your jaw will drop many times as you survey the beautiful landscapes that define this area of South Africa. Travel umami is something that is impossible to define, but rather the combination of all elements of a destination that culminates in a sort of perfection that has to be felt to be properly understood. That’s Cape Town and that is certainly South Africa. Long before my first trip to Southern Africa I was told that there is something in the air, something that latches onto your soul and refuses to let go. I naturally didn’t believe them until my first time experiencing it firsthand and then I understood, I got what they were talking about – this special travel umami. That’s simultaneously my top reason why everyone should visit but also the only one I can’t prove. So just trust me, plan a trip and go, go see and feel and taste South Africa and then I dare you to come back and say I was wrong.
At first blush, Hong Kong seems little more than a flashy city full of people. But once you delve a little deeper, then you start to discover the real city that lies just beneath that shiny veneer. The best way to better understand Hong Kong is through the city’s favorite pastime, eating. Whether it’s 3-star Michelin restaurants, or some of the best dim sum in the world, you won’t walk away hungry or disappointed. Also be sure though to explore the city, visiting Lantau Island and even the new PMQ, a cultural hub showcasing some of the best emerging creative minds in the city. I love Hong Kong for all of these reaons, but also because it’s never the same city twice. It’s in a state of continuous advancement, replacing and rebuilding at a rate that’s hard to imagine. Plus, there are so many little nooks and crannies around town that it’d take a lifetime to discover them all.
What are some of your favorite cities you never get tired of revisiting?